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Future senators battle over solutions to America’s problems

Many incumbent republicans for Idaho’s federal races, such as Congressman Russ Fulcher and Mike Simpson, declined to participate in debates ahead of the midterm elections on Nov. 8.

Elections for Idaho's next senator will be held on November 8th.
Elections for Idaho's next senator will be held on November 8th. Photo credit: C-Span

Senator Mike Crapo did not mirror the precedent set by other Republicans, choosing instead to debate contenders on Oct. 4, including David Roth, the democratic nominee for the seat, and Scott Cleveland, who is running as a conservative independent.

Opening statements

During their opening statements, candidates shared concerns for the future of the country.

“America’s still great, but clearly headed in the wrong direction,” Cleveland said. “The reason is this: Our leaders, including career politicians like Mike Crapo, are failing miserably at serving the best interest of everyday average Americans.”

Crapo saw the United States at a crossroads with the coming election.

“Our country is facing unprecedented threats domestically and globally,” Crapo said. “Inflation, economic decline, security at the border, personal safety, even the foundational principles of our Constitution are under attack.”

Roth commented on how the priorities of the American people are shifting.

“Over the last six months we’ve seen a shift in the view of these midterm elections when it comes to what the country expects as an outcome,” Roth said. “We require literate leadership with real-world experience. We must have a senator who understands that here in Idaho we have real people with real problems and we require real solutions.”

Inflation

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, inflation and consumer prices are at a 40-year high. Each candidate cited different reasons why inflation is so high and proposed different solutions to reduce it.

Both Crapo and Cleveland saw deficit spending inhibiting the reduction of inflation.

“We have to stop this reckless spending,” Cleveland said. “It’s going to take 10 or 15 years before we can get our financial house back in order. So anything that’s going to add to the federal deficit needs to be said no to right now.”

Crapo advocated for more fiscal responsibility.

“The bottom line here is that we’ve got to stop the runaway spending,” Crapo said. “We must not spend beyond our means.”

Roth, however, saw a different solution to driving down prices: compromise.

“What we need to do is instead of being obstructionist to every single policy that comes through and then sit back and complain and say, ‘hey, what we’re allowing you to do isn’t working,’ we need to work together and actually look forward to solutions that will reduce the problem,” Roth said.

Abortion

The overturning of Roe v. Wade catapulted abortion rights into the limelight of many midterm campaigns.

“The Supreme Court got this decision right,” Cleveland said. “Anything that is not in the United States Constitution falls back to the states to be determined.”

Roth thinks abortion should remain a federal issue.

“I believe that those fundamental rights, those rights that make up who we are as Americans, that define us, are not left up to the states,” Roth said. “They need to be the same regardless of where we are”

Roth called into question Crapo’s support of an earlier version of Senator Graham’s bill, which proposes a national ban on abortion.

“In his mind at that time, it wasn’t a state’s issue,” Roth said. “It was a federal issue, but now that the shoe is on the other foot, he would like us to think it’s the state’s issue.”

Crapo defended his stance by explaining the context of the bill.

“The reason I supported that legislation then is because that was before the Dobbs decision that made it clear that this is a states’ rights issue,” Crapo said. “At this point, the federal government should stay out of what is a states’ rights issue and allow each individual state to make their own decisions.”

Fighting extremism

Political extremism and political violence are on the rise. According to Boise State University’s Frank Church Institute’s Survey of the Mountain West, 20% of the population said, when asked to reflect on the events of Jan. 6, 2021, that “political violence is justified when things have gotten so bad that the government is not acting in the best interest of the people.”

Reporters asked candidates what responsibilities elected officials had in combating extremism.

“I think it’s very important that as a senator, as a statesman, we push back at every opportunity and we look at ways to protect our citizens,” Roth said. “How does extremism grow in the first place? One of the main ways extremism grows is because people are very unhappy. Here in Idaho, they’ve been living under a Republican supermajority for over 30 years.”

Roth then proposed a solution to reducing political violence and extremism.

“We need to make investments in our communities and in our state to try to improve those situations and starve out extremism so that they don’t have that fertile bed for it to lie in,” Roth said.

For the first time during the debate, Crapo agreed with his Democratic opponent on investment in Idahoans.

“I don’t disagree with my opponents on that principle,” Crapo said. “The point is well taken, though, that one of the best ways that we can deal with it is to strengthen people’s lives.”

Senator Crapo affirmed the need to address Idahoan’s frustrations.

“People today are frustrated at what’s happening to them with the inflation with when they go to the gas pump and they see that they’re paying double or triple what they used to pay at the gas pump,” Crapo said. “They are frustrated at what’s happening at the border with the fentanyl and all of the problems that we see with such an open border. And we need to address that.”

Improving elections

The 2020 presidential election aroused concerns about election fairness and security. On July 20, the senate introduced the Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act, which revises the process of casting and counting electoral votes by placing the responsibility of certifying electoral votes on the governor of each state with the vice president’s role in the process becoming more ceremonial.

Crapo believes the Twelfth Amendment and the Electoral Count Act of 1887 are sufficient for national election policy. Senator Crapo sees determining election policy as a responsibility mostly belonging to each state.

“The states should have the opportunity to operate the kind of elections that the Constitution gives them authority for rather than the federal government,” Crapo said. “That includes voter I.D. requirements during voting. It includes supervised ballot drop boxes.”

The state also controls the voter rolls, which keep track of who is registered to vote.

“It includes cleaning up the voter rolls and allowing the states to basically take those who have passed away, those who have moved out of the state, and others who are not citizens or who are not residents to be removed from the voter rolls,” Crapo said. “All of those things are under attack in Washington right now.”

Roth said restoring faith in elections starts at the top.

“As elected officials, we need to instill that confidence in the system, win or lose,” Roth said. “I would support the electoral act that you described, mostly because I think it’s absolutely important that we protect something from like January 6 from ever happening again.”

School shooting solutions

Crapo suggested two possible solutions to reduce the number of school shootings in America. First, harden schools by giving them more protection. Second, realize gun violence has multiple causes, including mental illness.

“I’m engaged with Senator Ron Wyden to develop a mental illness piece of legislation that focuses beyond guns and beyond violence to many other aspects of mental illness, but does focus on guns and violence,” Crapo said. “If we can focus on the cause, and find the ability to identify those who are potential risks and help them get assistance, we can make much more progress in dealing with the violence in our society, particularly this kind of gun violence that we see in schools.”

While Roth agreed with more investment in mental health resources, he disagreed with Crapo’s first solution.

“We need to do something,” Roth said. “We had an assault weapons ban that targeted many of these specific weapons during the Clinton administration and we did see a decrease in deaths and gun violence related to those assault weapons. I think that is something we need to seriously look at again because to simply not do anything and say ‘Well, if we make our schools look more like fortresses, then we can solve the problem,’ and that’s not really going to solve the problem because we have a fundamental problem in our country with gun violence and access to guns.”

Cleveland doubled down on the importance of increasing school protection from mass shootings.

“If life is so valuable that you got to go through seven layers of security to get into an airport just to go across the country, why don’t you have several levels of security to protect the most valuable resource, which is our youth, our children?” Cleveland said. “That’s a very doable solution and if it takes a little bit of money to do it then let’s spend the money there. I don’t think you should be taking away the rights of law-abiding citizens and people that don’t have these mental health issues and making their lives harder just because of what’s happened in Uvalde.”

Candidate information

You can find out more information about each of the candidate’s backgrounds and platforms here.

Mike Crapo

Scott Cleveland

David Roth

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